Snowy Serenity in the Wild, Wild Winter of National Parks

December 20, 2016Travel Ideas
Snowboarder on Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park
Liz Morrison, Share the Experience

For national parks, winter brings quite a change. As the crowds thin out and the landscapes are draped in snow, a whole new set of opportunities for rest and recreation arise. Winter conditions often present challenges for travelers, but visiting your favorite national park during the colder months can also offer stunning rewards, from serene scenery to heart-pumping winter sports.

Snowy serenity

Snow covered red sandstone hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park
Ryan Houston, Share the Experience

These parks move at a slower pace in winter, giving you an opportunity to relax, recharge, and enjoy some of America's most stunning scenery from a new perspective.

  • Bryce Canyon National Park - The roads leading to this Utah park's most famous scenic overlooks—Bryce, Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise points—are kept plowed all winter long, providing stunning opportunities for sightseeing and photography.
  • Olympic National Park - The Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park is open year-round, and winter is arguably the best time to visit. The cozy lodge rooms and rustic cabins provide a perfect place to sip hot chocolate and curl up under a blanket after a day exploring the wild landscape of the Olympic Peninsula.
 

Hiking on the #rainylake ice. #findyourpark in winter.

A photo posted by Voyageurs National Park (@voyageursnps) on

 

  • Voyageurs National Park - At the northernmost tip of Minnesota, this park offers some of the best ice fishing in America. Favorite spots like Rainy Lake reward anglers with perch, walleye, and other game fish, and numerous snowmobile trails provide easy access. 
  • Grand Teton National Park - A deep silence settles over the Wyoming landscape when the snow falls, making a snowshoeing trip in Grand Teton National Park all the more tranquil. What’s more, when you spend the night at one of the guest ranches in the park, you’ll feel like you've stepped back in time!

Wild, wild winter

Despite the weather, you'll find plenty of ways to stay active in national parks in winter, with adventures that range from skiing and snowboarding to winter hiking and backcountry camping. 

  • Yosemite National Park - In addition to incredible winter scenery, this park is home to the oldest downhill skiing area in California. The Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area (formerly known as Badger Pass) offers outstanding skiing and snowboarding from mid-December through March. 
  • Mount Rainier National Park - Winter camping is not for those who require a lot of comforts. But if you really want to connect with your inner Jack London, Mount Rainier National Park's backcountry campsites provide a place to test your wilderness skills during the harsh Washington winter.

Four people showshoeing through a snow-covered Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Kerry Kelly, National Park Service
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore - The shoreline of Lake Michigan is stunningly beautiful in wintertime. Sledding and tubing are favorite activities at the Dune Slide area, and the forests and meadows farther inland are perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 
  • Yellowstone National Park - Winter weather conditions make maintaining Yellowstone's roads all but impossible, which means just getting into the park is a bit of an adventure. Skis, snowshoes, and snowmobiles are the preferred modes of transportation, and the park's geysers and geothermal features are, if anything, even more spectacular in the frozen landscape of winter.

Wintery Grand Teton National Park
Phyllis Maguire, Share the Experience

The arrival of winter doesn't mean you have to stay home. In fact, thanks to fewer crowds and endless opportunities for recreation, there may be no better time to visit a national park. Just be prepared—weather conditions can be unpredictable, and winter brings a new set of hazards for anyone heading out into the backcountry. Be smart, stay warm, and enjoy the winter wonderland offered by our national parks!

Add new comment

Stay Inspired
Connect with the parks you love. Sign up to receive the latest NPF news, information on how you can support our national treasures, and travel ideas for your next trip to the parks. Join our community.